The Wisconsin Council of Rabbis issued a statement calling for the return of hostages still being held in Gaza, identifying Hamas as a terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, and expressing heartbreak over the suffering.
“The Wisconsin Council of Rabbis joins faith leaders around the State of Wisconsin in their anguish over the mounting losses and suffering in Israel and Gaza,” the statement read. “We also understand that the violence in Israel and Gaza deeply impacts people in our local communities, including many people who have lost or are worried about friends and family in the region. As clergy, part of our calling includes caring for the safety and spiritual well-being of everyone in our community, including those with whom we differ in our positions.”
The Wisconsin Council of Rabbis is a representative body of rabbis from all denominations of Judaism. It serves as a voice of the Jewish religious community in Wisconsin and promotes the interests of Judaism and the Jewish people in Wisconsin and throughout the world.
The Wisconsin Council of Rabbis statement is as follows:
The Wisconsin Council of Rabbis, representing Jewish congregations, organizations and institutions throughout the state and across the religious spectrum, grieves the many lives lost and many more injured in the war in Israel and Gaza. The scale of human tragedy is immense and we join the greater Milwaukee community in hoping for a path of actions leading to a total cessation of violence.
- We express heartbreak over the suffering and mounting loss of life of innocent people in Israel and Gaza.
- We pray for the return of the hostages and the bodies of those killed in captivity.
- We affirm the inherent human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis. Every life is of infinite value. As Judaism and Islam teach: To end a life is to destroy an entire world; to save a life is to save an entire world.
- We decry attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel and to dismiss the historical Jewish connection to the land of Israel, the Jewish ancestral homeland.
- We recognize Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Yemen and Hizb’Allah in Lebanon as Iranian sponsored terrorist organizations singularly dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate across the Middle East. A modern Palestinian state is not their goal.
- We understand that those terror groups are not synonymous with the Palestinian people.
- We call on the international community to demand that Hamas retract and renounce its stated commitment to repeat the atrocities of October 7th against Israelis as well as to hold Hamas responsible for their active part in perpetuating this war.
- We demand the cessation of the deliberate targeting of civilians as a precondition of any ceasefire. We denounce narratives that seem calibrated to create the outrageous impression that Israeli soldiers deliberately kill Palestinian children.
- We insist that international bodies and non-governmental organizations acknowledge and take a stand against the use of rape, torture and kidnapping for political aims.
- We understand that Israel’s military response to the October 7th attacks was taken in self- defense and not as retaliation. For Israel, Hamas and its allies are an existential threat.
- We expect Israel to ensure the rights and safety of Palestinians on the West Bank are protected and that violence perpetrated by settlers will be punished according to Israeli law to which they are subject.
- We ask the Israeli Prime Minister to disavow racist and genocidal statements made by his ministers as well as those calling for the displacement of Gazan civilians.
We recognize that the destinies of Israelis and Palestinians are inextricably bound up together. We desire an outcome that allows both Palestinians and Israelis to achieve self-determination, safety and peace, and we pray for leaders on both sides committed to realizing this outcome.
Last, we call upon people of good faith to demand a cease-fire predicated on the dismantling of the multiple terrorist organizations in Gaza working toward Israel’s destruction and the return of every hostage and every deceased hostage’s body. We pray, ultimately, for the realization of the prophet Micah’s vision: “And all shall sit under their vines, and under their fig trees, and there shall be none to make them afraid.”